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Know Your Enemy: Western Kentucky Meets Michigan State For The First Time

Western Kentucky (1-2) will travel to East Lansing for the first time ever for the Spartans' homecoming.

Michigan State has started 4-0 for the first time since 2015 and is now ranked #17 in the country in the newest AP poll moving up three spots from #20.

Western Kentucky comes into the game at 1-2, although their two losses in the last two games were by a combined fives points with a three point loss to Army and a two point loss last week to Indiana.

Western Kentucky is 0-9 all-time against Big Ten opponents (0-4 vs. Indiana, 0-2 vs. Illinois, 0-2 vs. Wisconsin and 0-1 vs. Nebraska). Western Kentucky like Michigan State has been a big recipient of players through the transfer portal. 28 of the 105 players on the roster are new this season through the transfer portal, including Michigan State defensive back transfer Davion Williams.

Team Strength

Big Play Offense

Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe has been electric so far in his three game as a Hilltopper. Zappe has thrown for 408 yards per game so far which ranks second in the FBS behind Virginia quarterback, Brennan Armstrong. Western Kentucky has had 22 "chunk" (20+ yards) passing plays so far in just three games with seven of those plays going for touchdowns. Out of the 23 touchdowns already, 22 of those have been through the air and only one has been rushing. Of those 22 touchdowns, eight different players have scored through the air for the Hilltoppers.

Team Weakness

One Dimensional Offense

Although the offense has been electric through the air for the Hilltoppers, they have little to no run game making it a very one dimensional offense. Western Kentucky hasn't had a rusher have more than ten carries this season and none have reached 50 yards rushing. Adam Corfield, Noah Whittington and Kye Robichaux are among the ball carriers for Western Kentucky.

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Players To Watch

Quarterback Bailey Zappe

Zappe is a big time talent at quarterback for the Hilltoppers. In the last two years against FBS teams he has thrown over 300 yards each game besides his first two. He has 22 touchdowns in those games with just three interceptions. Last season in four games, his lowest passing attempts was 46 against Eastern Kentucky. He threw for 380 yards or more every game last season including 567 and four touchdowns with zero interceptions against Texas Tech.

Wide Receiver Jerreth Sterns

Sterns is one of the many weapons for Zappe in this lethal passing attack. Sterns leads all active FBS players with an average of 8.1 receptions per game. Sterns has had games of 82, 107 and 171 receiving yards and four touchdowns so far. Sterns is a transfer from Houston Baptist along with his quarterback, Bailey Zappe.

Defensive End DeAngelo Malone

Moore ranks second on the team this season in tackles with 23. Moore has also added 1.5 sacks. In 2019, Moore was voted Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year which he's the only player in Western Kentucky football history to receive this honor. He had 99 tackles that season including 21 for loss (ranked fourth in the country that season). The 99 tackles in 2019 were the third most by a defensive lineman in a single season in the last decade.

Game Overview/Prediction

Michigan State off to their best start since 2015 have found different ways to win so far this season. This week the defense especially the secondary will have their work cut out for them and the offense looks to rebound after a brutal second half last Saturday against Nebraska. This game won't be as easy as a casual fan would think but the Spartans use a big offensive performance by Kenneth Walker III to get by the Hilltoppers.

Michigan State 42, Western Kentucky 29